Online Nursing School Q & A

Find answers to frequently asked questions about online nursing school and online nursing degrees.

a woman on her laptop enrolled in online nursing school

This online nursing school and education question and answer session will help you learn about online nursing degrees and whether they're the right nursing career education choice for you.

Can I become a registered nurse (RN) online?

There are some online nursing schools that allow you to earn your associate's degree, and qualify for your initial RN licensure, through hybrid programs, which are a mixture of classroom and online education.

How do online nursing school programs work?

You generally complete the non-clinical portion of your online nursing school course work online. Your clinical requirements are usually arranged at a medical facility near your home.

How does online learning work in general?

An online class is generally hosted on its own website. The instructor posts lecture materials and assignments to this site, and there is usually a bulletin board or other discussion forum where students may post comments and questions. The instructor may occasionally designate a specific time for an online nursing degree chat session, but otherwise you may log in and work at any time.

Online nursing school assignments are emailed to the instructor, usually on designated due dates. For many online classes, written course work takes the place of traditional examinations. When this is not the case, examinations may be offered online, or they may be proctored; many online nursing schools provide students with listings of suitable locations in their area where tests may be taken.

Do I ever have to come to campus?

Some online nursing schools may require students to spend a few days or weeks on campus, but many have no residency requirement.

Will I be able to complete online nursing school at my own pace?

While some online classes or degree programs allow students to complete course work at their own pace, many programs affiliated with traditional universities require online students to maintain the same quarter or semester schedule as on-campus students. While some classes and degrees may be completed at an accelerated pace, classes are usually structured in such a way that they require a minimum of six to eight weeks to complete.

Can I start my online nursing degree program at any time?

If the online nursing school class or degree program you're enrolled in is self-paced, you'll probably be able to start any time. However, many online nursing school classes / degree programs are structured like traditional programs. When this is the case, there is generally a designated start date.

Will I work with an academic advisor?

If you are enrolling in an online degree program, it's highly likely that you will work closely with an academic advisor to plan your curriculum. If you're enrolling only in an online course or two, you will probably not work with an advisor.

What are the benefits of online nursing school learning?

Many working nurses with family responsibilities cannot afford to work less while attending school. Though online nursing education is no less demanding than traditional education, the option of learning online allows many nurses to earn an advanced degree at home, completing course work at their convenience. This saves on travel time, which is particularly useful for students living in rural areas that are not close to any nursing schools.

How do on-campus and online education experiences differ?

Online course content is generally the same as that of traditional courses. Many prospective students worry that by taking courses online, they will not receive the benefit of personal interaction with their instructors and fellow classmates. However, although students who take courses online usually do not meet face-to-face with instructors and classmates, communication via email or online discussions often proves to be just as rewarding. Students who take courses online also often have the advantage of receiving instructors' lectures in written form.

What nursing degrees are most commonly offered online?

The RN-to-BSN and MSN degrees are the most commonly offered online degrees. Although some institutions offer a variety of advanced degree and certificate options for students seeking online education, most schools limit their online degrees to a handful of programs.

How much will an online nursing degree cost?

This varies widely by school and degree program. Students should expect to pay anywhere from a little less than $100 to more than $300 dollars per credit, with average tuition for online programs sponsored by public universities generally falling in the $110 to 170 range. Additional registration or enrollment fees may also be charged. One advantage of taking classes online is that out-of-state tuition is not typically charged.

Do online schools offer scholarships and financial aid?

Students enrolled in online degree programs are often eligible for the same types of scholarships and financial aid as students enrolled in traditional programs.

What are the prerequisites for an online nursing degree?

You should check with the school you are interested in to learn about the specific entrance requirements of your degree program. In general, BSN programs, whether online or traditional, have the following requirements:

  • SAT or ACT exam; minimum scores vary widely by school
  • Minimum GPAs range from 2.0 to 3.25, depending on the school
  • 3 years of high school math, including geometry and algebra II
  • 3 years of high school science, including biology and chemistry
  • 4 years of high school English
  • 2 years of high school foreign language

RN-to-BSN, RN-to-MSN and MSN programs generally require the following:

  • Graduation from a National League of Nursing (NLN) accredited nursing school
  • A current RN nursing license
  • A 2.5-3.0 GPA (grade point average in selected prerequisite courses)

What type of computer equipment do I need for online nursing school?

This varies from program to program, but students planning to enroll in online classes should expect, at minimum, to have regular access to a computer with an Internet connection and to have an email account. Schools can tell you more about their specific requirements. Some questions you might want to ask include:

  • Are certain browsers required (such as Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator or Mozilla FireFox) and what version is needed?
  • How fast should my modem be?
  • Does my computer need to be IBM compatible?
  • Do I need to have Microsoft Office software?

I've never taken a course over the Internet. How do I know I can do it?

If you have a computer, access to the Internet, and an email account, chances are you will be able to take a course online. Many schools offering online courses have a simple test page that allows you to determine whether you have the right equipment for an online course.

Will I be able to receive credit for work experience?

Students seeking to receive credit for work experience generally have one or two options:

  • Complete proficiency exams such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) or the Proficiency Examination Program (PEP) in lieu of course work in areas in which they have work experience or knowledge gained though independent study.
     
  • Turn in a portfolio (officially documented) listing experiences for which college credit may be awarded.